That title is a hoary old doctor joke, and the punchline is, of course, "...but the patient died on the table."
Two years ago, Joe Biden was famously quoted for saying to Barack Obama upon the occasion of health care reform legislation finally passing: "This is a big [expletive deleted] deal." In the past week or so, the White House has rolled out a big media push to support Obama's signature legislation. Next week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the subject of whether the law, as written, passes constitutional muster or not.
We'll get to all of that in a moment, but we have some Republican primary prognostication to quickly take care of first.
As always, we believe all political pundits should, much like their counterparts in the sports world, publish their rolling stats on how accurate they've been during any particular season. In keeping with this spirit, here's my score so far:
Total correct 2012 primary picks so far: 37 for 56 -- 66%.
I picked up a pretty easy win this Tuesday by calling Illinois for Romney, and it's looking like another fairly easy pick today. Louisiana is next in line, and thankfully some polling has been done to gauge the current feelings of the Pelican State's Republican voters. I'm going to stick with what these polls are saying, and predict Rick Santorum wins his eleventh state, and by a comfortable margin. Mitt Romney will place second, with Newt Gingrich far behind and Ron Paul posting only single digits in fourth place.
The only real question coming out of Louisiana is whether Newt Gingrich will soon afterwards exit the race. I must admit, I've already predicted this event a number of times, and had Newt prove me wrong in every instance. But this time the calendar seems to dictate that Newt's run is over whether he wants to admit it or not. I've heard rumors that his Las Vegas Sugar Daddy has "written his last check" for Newt's super PAC, but even without the lack of money, the primary schedule is awfully stark for Newt for the next few months. Southern states, for the most part, just aren't in the mix for weeks and weeks to come. Sure, Newt can stay in and continue to embarrass himself (he placed fourth, behind Ron Paul, in Illinois), but both the voters and the media have already decided it is now essentially a two-man race. This means even if Newt stays in, he will be almost completely irrelevant. My guess is, at some point during the weekend (or soon after), Newt bows out of the race.
To wrap up what will likely enter the history books as the most misogynistic Woman's History Month ever, we have a bright piece of news for American women.
Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland set a record this Saint Patrick's Day -- she became the longest-serving woman in the history of Congress. With 35 years in the House and Senate combined, Mikulski just beat Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts who died in 1960 after her own 35 years in the House.
Mikulski still has some months to go before she cracks into the all-time longest-serving list on Wikipedia, though, as they only list the top 94 (with a cutoff of exactly 36 years). Of the 94 on the list, only 14 are still currently serving.
Senator Mikulski was elected to the House in 1976, and the Senate in 1986 -- as Dick Durbin noted in floor remarks this week, the first woman to do so not "because of a husband or a father or someone else who served before her in higher office" but on her own merit.
We are proud to say that for her impressive congressional record, Senator Mikulski is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week. Congratulations on your record-setting achievement, and we look forward to your continued service on behalf of your Maryland constituents.
[Congratulate Senator Barbara Mikulski on her Senate contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]
The people who massively disappointed me this week aren't truly eligible for this award. But no other Democrats did anything odious of note this week (if I forgot anyone, please let me know in the comments, as always), so instead I'm going to launch a mini-rant instead.
To The Editors Of America:
A toy made by the company Ohio Art has been in the news this week. This toy has a name. It is a brand name. It is a registered trademark, in fact. For some unfathomable reason, the otherwise-respected editors of this great country have all decided en masse that you will "edit" the spelling of this name. This is wrong and it needs to stop.
The name of this toy is, formally: Etch A Sketch®. Not "Etch a Sketch" or "Etch-a-sketch" or any of the other various idiotic ways you've been misspelling this trademark.
You are, to be blunt, over-editing. You are relying on the rules in your Book of Style for headlines, or conversation, or standard English. This is an error. You need to turn to the section in that Book of Style which discusses trademarks and brand names. In it, you will find that the company gets to decide the proper spelling and capitalization -- and not you.
The only exception to this hard-and-fast rule is when a trademark becomes a generic English word (example: aspirin). Some trademarks are teetering on the edge of this today (examples: Kleenex, Dumpster), but only when they begin to be used generically. Etch A Sketch is not in either category -- it is a very specific toy, and not some generic class of toys.
Seriously, guys, get it together. It takes about five seconds to find either the Ohio Art webpage, or even just any random image of an Etch A Sketch. The toy's name is printed right there on the top -- you can't miss it.
Now, few people will actually use the full "Etch A Sketch®" but this is not a problem, as the company itself isn't insistent on the "registered trademark" symbol. Ohio Art's own press release page shows that they themselves use the less-formal "Etch A Sketch" in their press releases, at times. So dropping the ® is understandable, but getting creative with the capitalization (or hyphenation) is, at this point, inexcusable.
Take the five seconds it requires. Look it up.
[Contact your local media outlet to correct them, if need be. Sigh.]
Volume 203 (3/23/12)
With that off our chest, we are in a perfect mood to address the health reform anniversary.
Two years ago, I wrote a column entitled "Health Reform Post-Mortem" in which I reviewed the trainwreck of getting health reform legislation through Congress. In it, I said (among other things... this may have been the very first column I ever used the phrase "More Debbie Wasserman Schultz, please" but it certainly wouldn't be the last):
...Republicans were winning the "messaging" war on the issue. Obama simply wasn't getting his message out, and neither were congressional Democrats, for the most part. Framing your message correctly helps you gain public support for your plan. Obama is reportedly going to do a public relations blitz in the next few weeks to "sell" what just passed to the public. But if he had done so in about September or October, it could have made a bigger difference.
. . .
Instead of forever being defined by their opponents, Democrats have simply got to learn to play offense in the marketplace of ideas, instead of always joining the verbal battle in a defensive crouch. At the beginning of the process, define your goals and then repeat as a soundbite until everyone "knows" it is true: "We Democrats are for X, Y, and Z. Republicans are against these fine ideas."
Also, while Obama did do this at the end of the process, from the very beginning, personalize the storyline. Pick a poster child, and say you're fighting to make his or her life better. Republicans are fighting to keep her in misery. Paint this one with broad strokes, and make the Republicans play defense, for once. Define the Republicans as being "on the wrong side of history, and on the wrong side of public opinion."
Two years later, the media blitz has finally arrived. Insert your own cynical "better late than never" comment here, I suppose. As of this writing, browsing the featured articles on Huffington Post, I find pro-Obamacare articles (even Obama has now embraced this term, apparently) from an MSNBC anchor, a small business advocate, Senator John Kerry, the National Urban League president, a health care advocate, the Surgeon General of the United States, and (for good measure) Sandra Fluke.
I don't mean to single out the Huffington Post, as this media blitz is taking place everywhere the White House can reach, as a concerted effort to tout Obamacare as a good thing. Truth be told, it has (so far) been one of the most impressive efforts on the media front I've ever seen from any Democrat. They are flooding the airwaves, and they have their forces marshaled.
The only problem, of course, is that next week the Supreme Court news is going to overshadow this effort, because the effort itself is years too late. The Supreme Court decision will not arrive until the summer, but the news of the extended arguments will dominate the media for the next week or so. As Alexis de Tocqueville said, "There is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one."
Because of the court arguments next week, we would likely have written our talking points this Friday on the health care argument Democrats should be making anyway. But since the media blitz is so overwhelming, instead we're going to (for the first time we can remember) just serve up, word-for-word, a list of suggested talking points from the Democratic congressional leadership. Call it a make-your-own-talking-points week. Here are the facts and figures to work into defending Obamacare, if you dare. We offer these verbatim, with no introductory comments. The preface to this list was "Thanks to the Affordable Care Act:" (but one assumes the White House is now OK with using "Thanks to Obamacare:" as well).
86 million Americans, including both seniors in Medicare and Americans under age 65 in private plans, have received one or more free preventive services, such as check-ups and cancer screenings.
105 million Americans have had a lifetime limit on their coverage eliminated.
17 million children
Up to 17 million children who have pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage by insurers.
2.5 million young adults
2.5 million additional young adults up to age 26 now have health insurance.
5.1 million seniors save $635
5.1 million seniors in the "donut hole" have received savings on their prescription drugs. $3.2 billion is the amount that seniors in the "donut hole" have saved on their prescription drugs, or an average of $635 per senior.
2.3 million seniors
2.3 million seniors have taken advantage of a free Annual Wellness Visit under Medicare.
2 million workers
360,000 small employers have used the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit to help them afford health insurance for 2 million workers in 2011.
-- Chris Weigant